It's been a year since we began this column. I wondered aloud 12 months ago how long it'd take me to run out of words or ways to talk about crappie fishing.

Don't know about you, but the past 12 months for me have been fun. I have enjoyed bringing you mostly true tales over the last many months in this little column. I hope you've enjoyed being a part of this as well.

River's rising, don't go

How many times have you heard that you can't catch crappie on our Mississippi River oxbows when the water is coming up? Seems that's been a rule since before I ever heard of Chotard/Albermarle/Tennessee, Ferguson, Old River or Tunica Cutoff lakes.

Don't believe it, folks.

Crappie eat every day, and I believe that on some rising-water days, they actually bite better.

Sure, they may not be in the same place you caught them when the river level was steady or on the fall. But when you locate them, they will bite on high river rises - even when the river level is jumping over 2 feet a day. Trust me.

Recently, several of my Chotard buddies and I proved my contrary theory that rising water does not turn them off.

One of my best-ever three-day trips to Chotard was just before Christmas this past winter when the river went from 9 feet to 26 feet in 10 days on the Vicksburg river gauge. Let me tell you about it.

Upon arrival, all I knew was that the river had been rising rapidly for a few days, and there was no reduction of the in-flowing fresh river water in sight. What to do, what to do?

Chotard and its two connected sister lakes, Albermarle and Tennessee, are huge bodies of water to go looking for white perch with no help or reports.

So I just started eliminating water. First, I fished the snags and laydowns close to the launch area at Chotard Landing. I got no bites, and no fish showed on my fish finder. So I moved to the middle, the deepest part of Chotard. Still no success.

I went to Tennessee, thinking that with the river rising, the fish would have moved "up the lake." Guess what? Somebody raised the road bed that goes across the Tennessee/Chotard ditch, and even though the river level was historically high enough to get into Tennessee, now there was no way until the river came up another 3 feet or so.

I turned around and went to Albermarle. There, I ran into David Thornton, an Eagle Lake resident and buddy of mine.

"David, you catching any?"

David just nodded his head without saying a word. It was like he didn't want anyone else to hear him. I looked around. There was no one else on the entire lake who I could see, so I persisted with my questioning.

"Big 'uns?" I asked.

David nodded once more, and he grinned so big he couldn't help but chuckle.

"Yeah!" he finally exclaimed. "Big as they grow."

Hurriedly, I put out my drift poles, and within just a few minutes, I landed two of the biggest perch I've ever seen.

"Man, you been doing this all morning?" I asked.

Another nod.

"Now, Paul, I know you," he said. "You'll be writing about this in that dadgum magazine!"

Promises, promises

Well, I promised David I wouldn't give away his exact secret location or tell everything I learned that morning, but I feel that I do have some obligation here to report that David and I and a couple of other boats had some outstanding days once we zeroed in on a pattern.

Forgive me, David, but I must report that this was the first time I had fished so shallow this time of the year and caught such huge slabs. You see, we "pro-fessional" journalists have an obligation in this regard to report such goings on.

What a treat to catch 2-plus-pound perch on 14-foot trolling poles with only 4 feet of line out. Brother, some of the bites I got the next couple of days would almost jerk the poles right out of the holders. Literally, before I could react to a bite, the fish would have bent my long poles backwards, and the first thing I'd see would be another 2-pounder jumping like a bass or just scooting across the top of the lake like she'd been shot out of a cannon.

I missed several big fish that I just couldn't turn or handle fast enough.

The best result I saw in three days was from Andy Anderson and George Smith, both from Laurel. Anderson was in the front seat of his Duracraft running the trolling motor, and in between eating peanuts, doughnuts, sausages and biscuits, deer jerky and Tootsie Rolls, he would land a big fish every now and then.

Meanwhile, in the back of the boat, Smith was casting a Zebco 33 with two jigs tied on. It didn't seem to matter whether he cast toward the bank or toward deep water. Once I watched him cast four times and bring in four huge fish.

They ended the day with 46 "as big as they grow" crappie.

February fishing

You may not believe this, but February is actually the month when some of our Mississippi crappie begin their annual spawn. My, how time flies when you're having fun!

Smaller lakes and warmer pockets of our larger reservoirs will hold early spawners this month. True, February can be bitterly cold, and I profess no skill at forecasting the weather. Just prepare for cold weather when you get dressed early in the morning.

I believe the biggest fish of the year are caught in late February/early March. Those big mamas with bellies that look like they swallowed a baseball will begin to show up in your catches if you just give it a try this month.

One of my favorite pre-spawn areas is the Roses Bluff area on Ross Barnett Reservoir. I love to fish on those deeper drops from 13 to 16 feet deep with my little rubber crawdads doctored up with Real Craw attractant. Bounce that sucker on the bottom, and be ready to get the net and the camera.

Let's go catch some "as big as they grow" this month. See you on the lake, friend.